Space has become a geostrategic issue and expression - politically and economically. The dependence on satellites has increased enormously and is shaping our everyday lives decisively: in satellite navigation, imaging, telecommunications, in the trade of goods and in science. In contrast to earlier times, in which only the state organizations acted in space, private companies are now playing an increasingly important role. Private companies worldwide now offer launch capacities for satellites. Among them are many startups that drive the development of small, but powerful, rockets and are able to carry micro- and cube satellites into orbits. Not only the rocket technologies are going through a development step, but also the fuels are being sought for alternatives.
Evonik offers innovative solutions with its high-concentrated hydrogen peroxide under the PROPULSE® brand, manufactured in Rheinfelden (Germany) and Bayport (Texas, USA). The latest rocket generations of small and flexible rockets increasingly rely on PROPULSE® as direct fuel. Compared to other fuels, the product is powerful, easy to handle and not carcinogenic. However, buyers of PROPULSE® have so far had only two options for supply: Either ordering many very small containers with a capacity of up to 12.5 liters – or a tank container with a capacity of 20 m3. There were no containers for order quantities in the range of approx. 500 - 3000 liters.
The decomposition properties of hydrogen peroxide mean that there are special safety requirements for transport and the containers used for this purpose, especially at high concentrations. “We searched internationally in early 2018 for an appropriate, approved transport container, but were unable to find anything suitable,” explains Anna Kunkel, Marketing Manager at Evonik. “We worked closely with a packaging specialist for designing new transport containers,” says Kunkel.
“We see ourselves as far more than just a material supplier. This is why we consider it crucial to support our customers in overcoming their challenges,” says Kunkel. Evonik therefore supports customers in a wide range of issues relating to the ground handling of hydrogen peroxide.
"For the design of the new transport containers, we worked closely with a packaging specialist and also brought our colleagues from engineering and tank plant construction on board," says Kunkel.
The result is a transport container made of pure aluminum with a capacity of 220 liters. Thanks to a specially developed extraction device, the hydrogen peroxide can be safely removed from the container by the customer. Especially for the small rocket operators, this reusable packaging represents a real solution to transport and store fuel quantities from 300 kg to 3000 kg across the globe.
As required by law, the container developed by Evonik has been approved by the German Federal Institute for Materials Testing (BAM) for the global transport of high-concentrated hydrogen peroxide.
After utility model protection for the reusable container was granted in 2019, the publication of the international patent application followed in April 2021.
"We have created a real unique selling point on the market here and have already used the containers at our new location in Bayport, USA, for our space customers," says Kunkel. Due to the property right, other manufacturers cannot simply imitate the container design.